Album Review: Jon Hopkins – Music For Psychedelic Therapy

It is a good day with all of the music coming out, but when Jon Hopkins drops a new album, you know it will be better than most. Following his 2018 album Singularity, Hopkins reached new heights. He was nominated for a Grammy and hit the festival circuit as one of the more in-demand names. Despite that, he wanted a change – a shift into something different. What was created was his new album Music For Psychedelic Therapy.

Immunity and Singularity were sister albums,” Hopkins says. “I feel I explored that particular sound as much as I could. Next, I wanted to make something that faced the opposite direction, something very far away from a cosmic party or a set of festival-ready bangers.” Instead, he wanted to make music that felt like “looking inwards, something egoless, with no attempts made to ‘fit in.’ It felt like time for a total reset, to wait for music to appear from a different place.”

What instead emerged was a beatless album, like the ambient pieces found on his prior work.

The starting point for Music For Psychedelic Therapy came in 2018 when Hopkins was invited on an expedition to a huge cave network, known locally as Cueva de los Tayos / Cave of the Oilbirds, under the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. For four days, the 10 people lived in those very dark caves. His experience there shaped this record, while one of the people on the trip, neuroscientist and Wavepaths founder Mendel Kaelen, captured sounds from the caves with field recording equipment.

From there, Hopkins started to feel excitement about making music with “purpose and excitement about the idea of making music as a part of a therapeutic journey.” Three of the songs are directly linked to those caves and you can feel their impact. They are ambient, vast and also at times quite claustrophobic. There are the sounds of water rushing and birds chirping on “Tayos Caves, Ecuador i” and “iii" to bring even closer to the inside of those caves.

For Hopkins, this was an album that was made very quickly, but felt like a culmination of a life of work. When you listen to his past projects, you can dive into the calming ambient songs that help shape the records.

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“This feels like the album I have spent my whole life making, and simultaneously like it just appeared out of nowhere. The bulk of it was recorded between December and May 2021, through the darkest winter I can remember,” explains Hopkins. “It brought me light and purpose, and seemed to flow through me without obstruction in a way I have never experienced before.”

However, the title isn’t about caves, but rather psychedelic therapy. He worked advising on the playlist used for David Nutt's Imperial College psilocybin trial. Psychedelics have been a critical part of his own personal journey and their connection to music feels vital for him.

“While I feel it is powerful for the sober listener, this stuff does take on a new dimension entirely within the psychedelic ceremony,” Hopkins says. “In my own journeys testing this music, I found a quote I had read would keep coming to mind. ‘Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music.’ Something you inhabit, something that works on you energetically.”

A gapless audio version is available, but you don’t really need it. This album flows effortlessly from start to finish like a stream through a subterranean cave. It often incredibly calming, like lying down on the floor in a soundbath calming, but also he adds a few more elements like the nature sounds and soft piano on “Ascending, Dawn Sky” that has the gentle beauty of a beautiful sunrise.

Hopkins swerves with this album away from the dancefloor and to a calming, introspective view of nature and psychedelic therapy. The ways to present this album in a live setting should be quite interesting and the LP will be essential as the days grow shorter and the winter nights become longer. The final song has that warmth as he collaborates with East Forest and Ram Dass, taking you a guided meditation to sitting around a fire.

As Ram Dass says, "quiet the mind and open the heart." This album is designed for that. Get your copy here.